“Our backs to the sun, our faces to the earth, forever.”
The next time Megan and I were taken to Ayutthaya, we had been told that we were going to be helping at an English camp and to pack a few days worth of clothes. The two of us sat in the back of an old, rusty pickup truck, watching the countryside go by in an endless run of green field and red soil. A few rice farmers waved at us from their fields and we waved back. Our backs to the sun, our faces to the earth, forever.
The truck finally came to a jolting halt in front of a small hotel in a small, yet busy, town. Night had long since fallen and the sky was black velvet. I wish I remembered the name of the town. I would go back there. Megan and I were put up in a small room and reminded that we would set out for the school at 6 am. The two of us showered briefly, brushed our teeth, and fell snoring onto the hotel beds. We forgot to set the alarm, however, so when the Rotarians came pounding on our door asking if we were ready to go, we shot out of bed, showered, dressed, and came running out the door in five minutes. We piled back into the truck and found ourselves once more staring at the countryside.
“They didn’t care what life threw at them…”
We eventually arrived at the English camp and proceeded to make friends with the fifty or so Thai children who were attending the camp. These children were mostly from poorer families, and through hard work in school had won the privilege of coming to this camp. I was surprised at how full of life they were, not like the little girl from before. They didn’t care what life threw at them, they’d go on living. The second we got there, Megan and I began introducing ourselves to the children, laughing and being laughed at as we tried to pronounce each others’ names. A happy shout went up as Megan and I suggested a game of hide and seek.
The two of us were designated the seekers, and everybody else went running for a hiding spot. We were supposed to act the role of teachers–not friends and the Rotarians frowned on our new found friendships. We didn’t care. These kids just wanted to have fun, without being serious. God knows they probably had enough to worry about on their plates back at home. They may have had parents who cared more about alcohol and drugs than their own children. They may have had parents who are over worked trying to make ends meet. They may have had trouble getting enough to eat. Some of them had possibly already been newspaper or jasmine-blossom sellers in the congested streets of Bangkok’s traffic.
For the next few days, Megan and I taught these kids English and learned some Thai in the process. They taught us their favourite songs, dances, clapping games, and more. We taught them ours. During this exchange we passed each other juice boxes and pieces of candy, we ate meals together, doing each other’s hair with the girls and pretendeding we were superheroes with the boys. Once, we were all piled onto a bus and driven to Ayutthaya to see the temples. On the way, we begged the bus driver to turn on the radio. He obliged cheerfully, and “Oh La Na” started blasting throughout the bus, echoing out the open windows and into the fields. As soon as the kids realized what song it was, they all jumped up and started dancing to it. We weren’t exempt from the festivities, finding ourselves yanked out of our bus seats to dance and sing along. “Oh oh la nor nong roh dee dee…” They taught us some of the dance moves, and we spent the entire song dancing on the bus. The sky was so blue and the grass was so green, that it almost hurt to look at either. It didn’t seem real. The temples were nothing like I’d imagined. They rose into the sky like enormous, brown-red beehives with steep steps. Some of the little girls took our hands and dragged us over to a little shrine. In broken English and easy Thai words, they told us “make a wish, and maybe it’ll come true.” So we knelt down, closed our eyes, and wished. One of the little girls held on to my hand as we made our wishes. Feeling that tiny, dry hand, holding mine so trustingly, I wished I could find a chance to help anybody who needed it.
“We’d come to think of all of them–every last one of them–as our little brothers and sisters.”
When the time came for Megan and I to pack up our bags, it was with heavy hearts that we said our goodbyes. Some of the little girls helped us pack up our things as the little boys piled treats in our hands. They gave us little rocks, insisting they had shapes like a dog, or a moon, or a person running. “Wing! Wing! Run!” We’d come to think of all of them–every last one of them–as our little brothers and sisters. We’d slapped mosquitoes and sung together, long after the sun had gone down and the lights had been turned off. They didn’t want us to leave. I can still see their knees, scabby from playing games and from trips and falls. I can still hear their voices stumbling over the English words we so patiently explained to them. When we got in the truck and drove off, we waved our goodbyes, waving long after we couldn’t even see them anymore.
Written by Alexis Frost
Alexis Frost is from Prince George, Canada where she attends the University of Northern British Columbia. She spent a year in Thailand when she was sixteen and went back in April 2008. Since then she has taught herself how to speak, read and write Thai. Read Part 1 of Coin In Hand: Flipping the Fate of Poverty.